We came to China to explore the rhythm and pulse of life on the fringe, at least to the extent that our ignorance and inability to communicate would allow. Though a bike lets you wander off beaten roads, a hike lets you avoid roads entirely. So for the final few weeks of our China adventure, with boys gone and bikes packed in boxes, Mel and I chose to destroy a different subset of leg muscles on a 150-mile Buddhist pilgrimage kora around the Kawagebo mountains, where Tibet, Yunnan, Sichuan and Burma converge. Saddle sores healed on butts, blistered burned through heels, legs forgot how to pedal and remembered, painfully, how to walk. Pilgrims we were not, in any formal sense, but nirvana it was.
I feel great gratitude for being here, for being, rather, for there is no need to tie oneself to the snow mountains in order to feel free. I am not here to seek the ‘crazy wisdom’; if I am, I shall never find it. I am here to be here, like these rocks and sky and snow, like this hail that is falling down out of the sun.
–Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard